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Balancing Talent & Time Online


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An effective learning environment balances several key elements. Here’s how we’re accomplishing these in an online environment:
World-class faculty combining relevant, deep expertise with immediate application.
Active engagement between participants to leverage their experiences.
Experiential learning to put new frameworks into action and practice working in teams.

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Balancing Talent & Time Online

  1. 1. E-LEARNING T wo of the biggest obstacles to innovation are success and his- tory. Many large companies — and American universities — are steeped in both. However, the world in which we develop people and grow talent continues to change dramatically. Careers span continents and time zones, require leaders to influence ef- fectively in virtual teams, and demand the agility to build new skills rapidly. Anticipat- ing and supporting these demands requires innovative models that maintain high en- gagement between leaders and content experts, leverage experiential learning and foster relationships across the organization —without flying talent to central locations for all learning needs. Let me begin by stating the obvious: discuss- ing online learning as something monolithic is absurd. At UNC Kenan-Flagler, we have no doubt that online education can match and even exceed the performance of conventional education when done right. BalancingTalent andTime Online SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT During the past two years, we have invested tremendous time and energy to develop our onlineMBAprogramforworkingprofessionals, MBA@UNC, and believe that its success offers insights to meeting the development needs of far-flung talent for our corporate partners. An effective learning environment balances several key elements. Here’s how we’re ac- complishing these in an online environment: World-class faculty combining relevant, deep expertise with immediate application. • In our MBA@UNC program, we pair our best faculty members with media production and instructional designers to translate concepts they teach effectively in physical classrooms to a virtual environment. We use team teaching across each course, combining academic and practitioner approaches, to increase impact. • New frameworks and models are provided in highly produced modules for students to review asynchronously prior to a live class. Students can access and review content as needed to master concepts. Active engagement between participants to leverage their experiences. • Professors lead weekly live virtual sessions, limited to no more than 15 participants, in a“flipped”classroom engaging students in application through case discussions, participant-led presentations or breakouts for exercises. • Participants are face-to-face via webcam, dialed in by voice, and share content in their virtual classroom. Small cohorts 6 “Qualityeducationatanylevel isaboutthedesign,thecontent, theexpertiseofthefacultyand facilitators,theinteractionbetween participants,andtheimpacton behaviorchangeandskillbuilding createdbyexperiences—notabout thedeliverymechanism.” —SusanCates
  2. 2. MAY 2013 SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT contribute to the intensity — there’s no“back row.” Experiential learning to put new frameworks into action and practice working in teams. • UNC Kenan-Flagler is committed to the power of experiential learning. In person, we use simulations, cases, role-based negotiations, improv, storytelling and innovation labs, among other tools. Participants practice problem solving in teams and tackle action learning projects focused on real business problems. • We use all of these approaches effectively in our online environment, with the same level of engagement and results, while students practice firsthand operating in a global, virtual team. Opportunities for assessment and reflection in a supportive environment. • Self-assessments, multi-raters, faculty and peer assessments can all be effectively delivered and coached virtually. Virtual face-to-face coaching allows for even complicated situations to be handled in a safe and supportive environment. Creation of relationships across functions and geographies. • Driven by face-to-face technology, small, intense cohorts and an LMS that supports social networking interaction, our MBA@UNC students build strong relationships. They meet for virtual happy hours, support each other through difficult decisions and help each other solve problems. The effectiveness of online programs to de- velop talent should be judged by the same yardstick we use for in-person learning ex- periences: Do the participants take away concepts that they’re applying to lead and manage differently? Are they making an im- pact on their business? MBA@UNC students report that what they learn in class Mon- day night, they’re applying at work Tuesday morning. Their employers value this; about 30 percent of our students have received promotions and new jobs after only one year in the program. Our experience has shown that we can effec- tively reach a global community of leaders at multiple levels and drive real-time appli- cation of concepts. We use the same design approach to deliver high-impact, custom programs for corporate partners who need to develop leaders worldwide, both effec- tively and efficiently. Global talent managers can now address tough leader development issues traditionally reserved for face-to-face sessions through robust technology-en- abled learning solutions. Asking whether online learning can match the quality of conventional learning is ulti- mately the wrong question. As technology evolves, the question will increasingly be- come how to deliver impact, regardless of the way it is delivered. For more information, visit and 7 By Susan E. Cates Susan E. Cates is president of executive development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School and serves as executive director of the MBA@UNC program. Prior to joining UNC, she was a partner with Best Associates, a private equity firm with investments primarily in the education sector, based in Dallas. Cates was previously part of the founding team of ThinkEquity Partners, where she headed the education investment banking practice with responsibility for business development, client relationships and deal execution. She was a principal of the boutique investment bank in New York, which she co-founded with former colleagues from Merrill Lynch & Co.